It was Sean’s first full day back. He had a phone call from an unknown number.
”Hello?” he said quizically.
”Hello” Nigella’s voice purred.
”Hi there. How did you get my number?”
”Found it on Abel’s phone of course, silly.”
”But should you be looking at his phone?”
”Should he be fucking a schoolgirl? Her number is on it. Anyway come around to mine right now.”
”But I am only free for another 40 minutes”
”That will be more than enough for what I have in mind!”
”All right then” He did not need telling twice.
He raced around to St James’ for adultery.
As they lay there catching their breath he looked at her huge pregnant midsection. ”I can feel the baby kicking” said Nigella.
”Feel” she said and led his hand to it. ”She liked the bouncy ride” said Nigella
”How do you know it is a girl?”
”The doctor let it slip. I wanted a daughter this time. Fed up of boys. So I am most pleased.”
”At least I do not have to worry about you knocking me up because I am already knocked up”
”Is he still carrying on with Helena?”
”Yes” she nodded and looked away in pain. She sprawled back on the bed. She looked back at him. Her face indicated that she felt indebted to him for affirming her attractiveness.
”A few years ago I used to believe in myself. Now I am reduced to seducing my husband’s pal”.
Sean felt it was a little distasteful but could not resist sex.
One of his 4th form pupils was Checky – daughter of a language teacher. Checky was likable dyslexic and fairly diligent. She was also precocious. Sean was told a rumour that she was going out with a boy in the year above named Ainsley.
Sean saw Checky in the corridor. He walked up behind her and said ”Ainsley” mockingly.
”Sir!” she protested – she smiled in embarrassment.
Checky was one of the more personable pupils. She was not overly endowed with brains but neither was she hopeless in that regard. She was perceptive and dyslexic – not an uncommon combination. She did not think she was the cream of society – unlike some of her more dislikable confreres.
Checky had been suspended. One rainy afternoon Sean was walking down the lane towards his house. He saw a hooded figure hurry out of a house – the hood obscured the young person’s face. This youngster wore a tracksuit that gave the individual an andorgynous shape. This youth ran for a disused farm building and sat down behind a low wall. Sean saw this person – the wall only partly obscured the track suited figure. The half hidden person started smoking.
Sean wondered whether he had seen someone he disliked. If it was an arsehole who was smoking he always busted them. If it was a decent person he let it drift.
Sean hurried over and peered over the wall. The cigarette had been extinguished and hidden. It was his pupil Checky. She was a 15 year old.
”Oh hi Checky what are you doing there?”
”Oh er I am just having rest.”
”Well everyone needs a place to think.” Sean sauntered away.
A few days later Checky was back in school.
Checky was down the pub with her parents. She had brought two boys out with her. They all proudly held half pints. ”You proper busted me a few days ago.” said Checky.
”Yes of course I knew you were smoking but you are all right to me so I said nothing.”
”Thank you sir you are so cool”
He said to the lanky Italian boy ”If you are good to me I am good to you”
”That is the right attitude” said the boy. Sean knew he was liked and even admired by some. The pupils regarded him as singularly enlightened on this one. His policy earned him the co operation of the fairer and wiser pupils. Fr Augustine said one could not enforce every rule and it was a matter of choosing which battles to fight. Sean thought how asinine and unfair the school was. Victimless crimes such as smoking were considered heinous. Ruining the education of others was entirely permissible. Why was the school harsh when it should be lenient and lenient when it should be harsh?
Sean wandered home. He knew he was fast gaining recognition as a decent bloke among 4th form. If only he was able to stay another year. It would get easier. He had gotten to know people and the system. He was building up some kudos. But not he could not abide it. That was principally due to Murphy. He would not remain here a minute more than he was obliged to.
In class a boy said
”Sir is it true that Mr Kennington fancies Helena?”
”I will not have that. Do not say that sort of thing” Sean shuddered in fear.
”Sir, she has the hots for him” said one of the girls giggling.
”That is enough of that. We will move on with the class.” he shouted. He strove to act supercilious. Despite laying it on a bit thick he was genuinely angry. His face reddened.
The pupils noticed his vehement reaction and deduced that there must be something in these rumours.
Sean got on with the lesson. He was irritated by a fidgety boy with effeminate eyebrows. He was forever looking behind him and blinking incessantly. The child’s handwriting was almost illegible. It consisted of long squiggles and a series of jerky scratches. Yet another thing to drive him up the wall.
Sean was glad he had kept a certain distance with these pupils. Some teacher maintained too much of a gulf. Others were over familiar – familiarity breeds contempt.
After the lesson Sean phoned Abel. Fortunately Abel happened to be in a free lesson.
”Hello” said Abel cautiously. ”Hi it is Sean”
”Yes, I know who you are.”
”Well just to warn you. There is a rumour around. Some of the pupils were saying that you are going out with Helena.. I stamped on it with my full authority.”
”Ah thanks well that is harmless. Thanks for closing it down.” Abel began to wonder if his ambition to bed this girl had been perhaps inadvisable.
Sean carried on teaching them about the First World War. He enjoyed it and so did they. This was a brainy class. Even those who considered themselves very upper crust made an effort. They were not drones. Ogg was very engaged. Sean showed them some vivid videos. Computer graphics illustrated the manuoevres.
Murphy called him into his room. ”May I ask what you are teaching?” He stood rigid with his feet apart. He held one elbow with his other hand. His left hand was up cradling his chin. His face was furrowed.
”About the First World War”
”What aspect of it are you teaching?”
”The Battle of Verdun right now.”
”No, I made this quite clear. The first half of the term is about the military side of it and the second half is about the home front.” Murphy looked gravely concerned.
”And cut down on videos.”
”All right then”
”It is a heck of a big concern for me – what you are teaching them.”
There he went again – heck. Murphy had to bowdlerise everything. Sean could not resist a smirk.
Sean was elated to skive another few days. He caught the choo choo to Londinium. He lodged with Kyrle. He got up and went to Bucks. He got there very late. He had been early the first time.
He went for his one on one session with a professor.
”This has been a difficult year for you” said the cadaverous professor. It was the understatement of the century. Despite this seeming sympathy this prof did nothing for him.
Sean then scarpered. He went back to London – skipping all the lectures. He went to see Mila his new Slovak girlfriend.
She took him to her room in the basement of the Lime Tree Hotel where she worked.
”Do you like to do anything with the bum?”
Sean could not believe his ears. It was like Christmas had come early.
”Yes sure I do.”
”Will you do me up the bum?”
He felt like asking her to marry him.
It felt splendid to be paid by the Catholic Church whilst sodomising a Slovak waitress in a dank basement flat. He got off on the decadence of it.
That evening the walked through Victoria. They passed a pub where he saw one of his pupils with two mates. The boy was a 5th former on study leave
”Hello sir” called the boy
”Hi there” said Sean
”What you doing here?”
”Skiving” said Sean putting a finger to his lips
The boy laughed raucously.
The time came when Sean was obliged to return to Yorkshire
Sean got back. He fucked up the difference between A weeks and B weeks . He missed a lesson. No one noticed – it was 5th form
Then he saw Loveday on the corridor. This walking skeleton said ”ANDY Murphy is quite keen to speak to you”
”Ok then” said Sean
He went to Murphy’s office. Murphy berated him about the reports. Murphy went through them in a pedantic way. He changed things for its own sake. Why was Sean not allowed to say tantalisingly. The individuality was taken out of them. Why did Murphy not write them all?
Sean redid his reports.
Nigella then took him for a drive. This was to deprive Abel of a car when he would like to see his paramour.
Nigella and Sean went to the woods. There in a clearing they mated.
Sean and O DONOVAN were taking the third rate footballers. Before the boys filed down O’DONOVAN said ”You cannot write what you write in reports.”
”It is called honesty”
”What I am calling for is tact.”
”I am tactful. If I was tactless I would express myself in a more forthright manner. I would tell some parents exactly what I think of their sprogs and their parenting.”
”Honesty as you call it – you cannot say they are idle or badly behaved.”
”A few of them are idle and badly behaved. Why not tell the truth? Why not try to tackle the problem.”
”Honesty as you call it? Hmm. You are leaving. It is your decision from what I hear. I hope you get a new job – no I really do” he said sardonically.
Sean played in the first half. O DONOVAN acted as ref. In the second half Sean took over. He had them play for five mintues He then blew the whistle and stalked off. He was far from O DONOVAN. It was too late for O DONOVAN to call him back. He was too wise to confront his colleague in the presence of the pupils.
As Sean walked down the lane back to his house one of his star pupils was walking in the other direction. ”Excuse me sir, there is something I think you should know.”
”Oh yeah – what’s that?”
”There is a rumour going around my house. I am not saying it is true. But it is my duty to report it.” It was a Pecksniffian preface. She hesitated. ”People say that Mr Kennington is having a relationship with Helena. I mean an illicit relationship.”
”What? This must be a joke. Please do not go spreading ridiculous rumours. I know Mr Kennington very well. He would never do that”. It was a bravura lie. He then hurried off.
IT ALL COMES OUT IN THE WASH.
Sean was doing house duty.
HALES – one of the cheekier sixth formers said – ”Sir is it true that Mr Kennington is going out with Helena?”
”It certainly is not and I do not want to hear such malicious rumours.” Sean silently complimented himself on his Oscar winning performance. Telling a bare faced lie was his piece de resistance. Inwardly he was frightened for his friend.
Sean patrolled from room to room. He knocked on doors and saw the boys were in. WOODHEAD was an equally insolent prick.
”Sir, people say that Mr Kennington is picking up Helena in his car and bringing her to the woods for a bit of how’s your father.”
”That is absolutely false. If you repeat that you will be straight to the headmaster”
The last thing Sean wanted to do was bring these tales to the attention of the head.
”Oh right sir”; the boy smirked
”Which people told you this.”
”I don’t know sir.”
”Come on which people?”
”You do not go around false accusing innocent people. He could lose his career over this”
HALES was a little chastened.
A SOCIAL CALL
Sean got a phone call from Nigella one afternoon.
”Hello?” she said sounding distressed.
”Hi Nigella – is everything all right?” he said in a concerned tone.
”No, no it is not. Will you please come around. Things are going pear shaped for Abel.”
”Is he in the flat with you?”
”No, he has gone off with her.”
”All right. I will be right there” He hurried to her flat.
He got there to find the door was already ajar. He knocked and entered. In the drawing room he found her sprawled on a sofa looking wan. Her face was read and she sobbed.
”Thank God you’re here. I need a hug” she beckoned him over.
He went to her and bent down to embrace her. She held him tightly and briefly snogged him.
”I just need to know I am still sexy. I know – it is pathetic. I am an Oxford graduate and I still crave this validation. I am not losing my feminimity. I am about to be a mother of three so I am feminine enough. But sometimes I think I am already middle aged at 25.”
”No you are definitely not. You are young and sexy.”
”Thank you” she looked at him with sincere gratitude. ”But that is not it. That is not why I begged you to come. I implored you because things with Abel have taken a turn for the worse.”
”He told me a boy in the house – Galiaridi – said there is a rumour going around the girl’s house that Able is sleeping with Helena. ”
”Oh my God. I warned him. I knew this would happen.”
”It gets worse. ”
”Christ on a bike! What?”
”Now one of the third form boys asked me. Ma’am is it true that Mr Kennington is in love with Hannah?”
”Oh shit even third form know”
”Yeah in his naivete he asked me that. It is only a matter of time before the school finds out – if they have not already. We are all up shit creek without a paddle. He will be sacked – barred from working with children – maybe gaoled. I will be out of here. Where am I going to give birth to that arsehole’s baby? Back to my parents?”
”Well it is damage limitation at this stage. How can we limit it?”
”I am not sure that we can. It is too late. The cat is out of the bag. He cannot unfuck her.”
That evening Abel came back to a blazing row with his wife. It was interrupted by a phone call from Mr Brown.
The deputy headmaster spoke in restrained tones. ”Mr Kennington” he said most formally. He never addressed teachers as Mr________ or Mrs __________. ”Mr Kennington I need to speak to you in my office right now. Urgently!” There was no mistaking the gravity in his tone.
”Oh um … should I wear a suit?”
”I don’t care if you wear speedoes just get here right now!” he then added ”please” as an afterthought.
”Could I have dinner first?”, asked Abel desperate to avoid confronting reality.
”No you can’t!” Brown almost screamed. ”You get here in 10 minutes. This is dead serious. You call yourself a good Catholic!” Brown was uncharacteristically losing his cool. He hung up abruptly. That comment about ‘you call yourself a good Catholic’ was dispraise that stung Abel.
”Um darling…” Abel began
”Don’t you darling me” she had tears streaming off her face.
”Well that was Brown. He said I have to go and see him in his office. ” He was downbeat.
”I can’t guess what that is about” she said managing to make herself laugh for the first time in weeks. She turned and walked off as fast as a 9 months pregnant woman can.
Abel breathed deeply. He lifted his head and walked towards the door. He was preternaturally placid. He held his chin up. He told himself – que sera sera. He knew he had fucked up. He had made his bed and better lie in it.
He liked the walk. He thought of the next few minutes. He could delay the inevitable by at least a few minutes. The time it took to walk along the corridor – turn right onto Big Passage, walk up the slope, up the stairs, turn left and across the front hall, up the spiral stairs – turn right and then left and knock on Brown’s office door. Well that was a blissful time. Calm before the storm. But before he knew it the time was over. He wore Bermuda shorts and a short sleeved shirt.
He knocked on the door – prepared to meet his fate. He felt like a condemned man.
”Come in” said a voice without a hint of warmth in it.
Abel walked in.
There sat Brown and Mrs Arrowsmith behind a desk. There was a secretary standing by.
Notably they did not rise to shake his hand.
”Good evening” said Brown. His trademark good nature had deserted him. ”Please sit down” he gestured towards a chair in front of the desk. There was no tone of ”please” to accompany the word.
”Thank you” said Abel ”Good of you to see me” He immediately regretted that – fearing it came across as facetious.
”Mrs Goldthorpe is here to take notes” said Brown indicating the middle aged secretary with the severe fringe. She nodded at him.
”I see” said Abel maintaining his composure.
”You can guess what it is about” said Mr Brown.
”No I can’t ” said Abel blinking wildly.
”Don’t mess me about. All right – that is the way you want to play it. I wasn’t born yesterday.” Brown paused. He took a few deep breaths. He recovered himself. ”Mr Kennington” – he continued, ”I had a phone call today from a very distressed mother. You might be able to guess who her daughter it?”
”No, sorry Mr Brown I cannot” said Abel – he rubbed his nose between his right thumb and index finger. Brown noticed that Abel did not appear to be one iota surprised by what he was hearing.
”It was also a fairly angry phone call. No – forget about the fairly. I think I can say an extremely angry phone call: EXTREMELY ANGRY. In fact, in 20 years of teaching I have never heard the like of it. There are some allegations against you. These are very serious indeed!”
”Goodness. I see” said Abel quietly.
Brown continued ”One of the girl’s has lodged a formal complaint about you. She has written a statement. I shall not say her name and the statement is not signed. Would you care to read this witness statement?” he pushed a sheet of paper on the desk towards Abel.
Abel read silently. The document said: I, a member of upper sixth, have been in a sexual relationship with Mr Abel Kennington for one month. I started flirting with him two months ago. He ignored my overtures for a while. Then he began returning my feelings and blowing kisses. He regularly winked at me in the corridor. I started going to his classroom when he had frees. He kissed me on the lips – with tongues. We did this on many occasions. I fully consented to all this sexual activity. Then he started to touch my breasts, buttocks and thighs. We exchanged mobile phone numbers. We sent each other racy texts and photos. We had erotic phone call conversations. We agreed to meet outside school. I would go jogging and he would drive by where I had arranged to meet him. I would jump in the back. We would drive to the Fisherton Woods. In a lay by there we would park. We walked into a clearing and had sexual intercourse. It was unsafe sex. Once we had sex in the back of his car. This week we had sex on the desk in his classroom. I had sex with Mr Kennington on at least 7 occasions. I started to fear I was pregnant because I was not on contraception and my period was late. I became very frightened and told my mother. Mr Kennington did not rape me but as a teacher and an adult it was wrong of him to abuse his position as a teacher to engage in a sexual relationship with me especially as he is married.
Abel stopped reading and looked up. He thought to himself – so it has finally happened. The thing he had told himself could not possible happened had happened. He was in disbelief. He had not read it. It could not be true that he had actually read that. He went into instinctive denial. He had told himself this could never happen but of course it could. It seemed unreal. All she had to do was tell someone. She had sworn she would not.
He said to himself – lie and survive. There must be no hedging. Stout denial.
”May I have your comment on this please?” asked Brown
”Yes. I would like to make clear from the very first moment this is absolutely false. I categorically deny every word.” Abel began to feel he had overreached himself. On the sexual encounters it was her word against his. But as for the erotic phone calls – these were not recorded but there were definitely phone records. The texts – those the police could get. The secretary’s pen moved swiftly to note his denial.
”Right” said Brown. He was back to his usual bonhomie. ”I am not going to detain you” Brown immediately realised the word detain seemed ominous in the circumstances. ”I am not asking you to comment in detail in each and every allegation. However, an allegation of abuse of trust has been made by a student. I am required by law to inform the police and I shall do so immediately after this meeting. No one else but myself, Mrs Arrowsmith and Mrs Goldthrope is to be contacted about this matter. You know the protocol. As of this moment you are suspended on full pay. You will go home – pack and bag and leave in one hour. Your wife and children can stay there until further notice. This is pending further investigations. You do not contact any of the pupils or return to school grounds without express permission. Is that understood?”
”Yes, it is.” Abel was still very calm.
”Abel. I like you. I do feel genuinely sorry for the predicament you are in. ”
”Thank you Mr Brown.”
”Are there any further questions?”
”Yes, what will everyone be told?”
”They will be told you are on leave for a while. There are various school trips so people may assume you are on one of those.”
”right” he was protective of his reputation.
”I shall be at your door in one hour. No later. I shall drive you to York or anywhere within 20 miles. Can’t say fairer than that.” Brown was almost cheerful
”That is jolly good of you.”
”Right so the meeting is over.”
Mrs Arrowsmith had been byronic throughout and scowled in as ugly a manner as ever.
The bland secretary noted everything.
The stood up. Mrs Arrowsmith hurried out of the room as did the secretary
Brown gave Abel as slap on the back. ”Sorry about this mate but I have to do this”
”Yes, I know not your fault” said Abel. There was warmth between them.
Abel sympathised with Brown. He had been under stress.
”Just typical of the head to pass the dirty work over to you.”
”I have to make all the difficult phone calls”, said Brown. He feared he had revealed too much.
”I gathered as much.”
”Abel -might be better in terms of career to resign right now” said Brown softly.
”I will think about it.”
Brown gave him a firm handshake and heartfelt smile.
Abel then headed home. He swung his arms nonchalantly. He said to himself he had been a silly fucker. Oh well – have to get another job. He felt like laughing. He was unbelievably airy and blase. He told himself that he must deny, deny and deny. Blind denial was his only hope. He must deny it so fervently that he could trick himself into believing that he had not bonked her.
BACK AT THE HOUSE
Abel walked in the door.
Nigella stood there with her hands on her hips. She had already put the children to bed.
”Well?” she said confrontationally.
”The solids have hit the fan?”
”She grassed you up?” she furrowed her face.
”Yes – everything down to our woodland trysts”
”Silly fucker. There goes your career. And if you thinking I am standing by this marriage -think again. You have royally fucked it all up!” she spat from anxious lips.
Abel stuck out his lower lip and raised his eyebrows dismissively. ”Oh well” he said. ”Brown says I have to move out now – suspended.”
”Yeah that is a prelude to being sacked. How about us.”
”You can stay – for a while”
”As I am about to give birth I hoped a Christian organisation might show a little compassion” she said. ”This is beyond a fucking joke. Well pack and goodbye” she said with hot tears of rage welling in her eyes. She walked to the bedroom and slammed the door. She lay on the bed and wept uncontrollably. She also began to feel sorry for her fool of a husband. Nigella has given the best years of her life to this man and he had wrecked it. He had also utterly fucked things up for himself. She longed for some sentimental goo goo. She wanted to call Sean. She had to be strong for her children but this was strength she no longer had. Why oh why had she had children with this man? Now she had a brood of three and she was only 25. When she met the boy it was blatant that he had a self destructive streak. He had been a genial sort but she never loved him – never really loved him. She wanted to curl up into a ball and coo like a baby. The responsibility was too much. She wanted to be rescued from all this.
Abel did not feel sorry for himself. He packed sensibly. He thought to himself – oh well. I messed up. I will find another career. I will get through this. Did not like teaching anyway.
Before an hour was up he was ready at the door. Brown greeted him eagerly and led him to his car.
They stepped in and Brown began to drive.
”Where do you want to go?”
”All right mate” he said fully of jollity.
”Very nice of you to drive me” said Abel.
”Least I could do.” Brown know that Abel was a sucker for a compliment so he said, ” I feel for you. I don’t blame you – she is hot. I have seen her legs when she was wearing a hockey skirt. When my wife was pregnant I fancied other women but doing a schoolgirl is a bit of a no no. We have all done it.” he said jovially.
Abel was surprised that Brown was speaking so candidly. He was also flattered by the tribute.
”Well yes Hannah is sexy. I am proud I shagged her” he said jocosely. He then moved Brown to wonderment with a graphic description of all he had got up to with Hannah. He could not help but boast.
Brown was inwardly jubilant. He had tricked Abel into an admission. No – Brown had not recorded it but he could now swear in good conscience that Abel had admitted it to him.
”Where you going pal?”
”I am going to a mate’s place in Bristol. I called him up and explained the situation”
”You lucky duck you are getting out of writing reports.” Brown smiled deeply. He was a superb liar.
”Yes, got to look on the bright side. It was a pain in the arse. So in fact Helena has done me a favour. Do I want to teach those stupid shites anyway? Of course not. Teaching is no fun anymore.”
”Too right. Time was no one would bat an eyelid if a man did what you have done. In the staff room we would be talking about which girls we fancied. That was the 70s. Not that I got a legover myself. I was married at 21. Those were the days. Back then a laptop meant a secretary” said Brown. They both laughed raucously.
Brown soon dropped Abel off at the railway station. Brown treated him to a handshake that seemed as genuine as could be. ”Thanks – you have been as good about it as you could” said Abel ”No hard feelings.”
”No hard feelings on my side either. I really am sorry about all this. Hope it works out for you. Do yourself a favour pal – and me. Resign tomorrow. Just send an email. It will have no bearing on the case.”
”Ok, ok. I shall. I promise” said Abel. He nodded then turned away and walked into the yellow bricked Victorian station. Abel thought to himself – what a nice chap Brown is. Abel was weary of concealing his affair. Now he did not need to. Nice to know that Brown was entirely on his side. Maybe he was better off out of teaching. He was feeling lethargic after teaching all those feckless pupils. It was conceivable that he would get his job back though. At the ticket desk Abel purchased a ticket from a clerk who had a face like a big red apple. ”Single or return”, the clerk asked.
”Single ” said Abel. It was quite a moment – he thought. He was aware that he would never be coming back. Only a few months ago he had moved in and believed he would stay for years.
As Brown drove back he regretted not bugging his car. He could have had incontrovertible proof of Abel’s guilt. Bring thing to a successful conclusion. Without that this case was still a can of worms. He might get Abel to resign but the whole thing would drag on in the courts for months. If Abel did not resign there would have to be a disciplinary hearing. Even if Abel was sacked he could appeal. If he lost that appeal he could appeal to the governors. Even after that it was going to court. The school’s name would be dragged through the mire. But he was glad that mission was accomplished. Kennington was out of the school. Brown had done as much as he could to limit the damage. He had not adverted to Abel what was going to happen to him. He thought of how odd it was that people like Abel were academically gifted yet childlike in naivete. He could not help but feel a little sympathy for this fool. His lively descriptions of fornication had been highly entertaining.
Next day an email from Abel pinged into Brown’s inbox. ”Dear Mr Brown,
I have considered my position at the school. I consider it best for myself and my family to resign with immediate effect for personal reasons.”
Brown was ecstatic. This saved him the grief and hassle of sacking Abel – with an investigation, witness statements, evidence sifted – the dismissal followed by an appeal followed by another appeal to the governors. All the while the whole sordid affair would leak out. Brown knew from bitter experience that even if people were sworn to secrecy such stories always got out. There are no secrets in a school – as Abel had learnt to his cost.
On the train Abel was at first relieved and relaxed. He treated himself to a few whiskies at the bar. Time to celebrate being out of that place and that marriage. Never liked either of them anyway. Abel arrived in Bristol towards midnight. He was in high spirits as he took a cab to his mate’s place where he would billet himself for a while. Abel considered denying what he had done. But no – that would be pusillanimous. He decided to level with him. His pal was egging him on. You fucked a hot 17 year old? Good one you mate! Abel was also delighted to be in Bristol – splendid town. He wondered whether it had been foolish to discard his denial. Might his mate bear witness against him? But the conversation moved on over plentous beers. This thing about boning a girl was a minor setback. He would get through it. Teaching might be out of the question but so what?
What a hoot! What he was accused of was plain silly. A man and a woman do it. Big wows! Society pretends to abominate this sort of thing but really does not – he thought. The sun leads the charge against the likes of him fucking a 17 year old and then shows you a topless 16 year old. The hypocrisy of this nonsense was breathtaking. This indignation over a man having a romance with a girl who was of child bearing age was such poppycock. It was a storm in a teacup. He had heard many anecdotes from friends of schoolgirls or schoolboys who had had a liaison with their teacher. It was educative. The delectable Helena was not a kiddie. She was more than apprised of the facts of life. This woman of the world had known what she was doing. She was no shrinking virgin. She was the hunter and not the hunted. Why should he be hauled over the coals? She had seduced him. There could be not outcry over this. Other men said phwoar when they saw her. They were merely jealous that he had done her and they had not. Urgent action was needed to reverse this puritan bigotry.
As for splitting from Nigella – well it was inevitable. Shotgun marriage and all that. Not that anyone had pressured him into it. Both sets of parents had said there was no need to wed. His marriage was over and he would not let bad feelings fester. Nigella did not come out of this smelling of roses. It was her frigidity which had turned him to lechery. Pregnancy had not dampened his enthusiasm for her. She had turned feminist – it was a vile mindset. He had been extravagantly good to her. The breakup of their marriage was entirely her fault. That was a few years of his life down the drain. Oh well he would find someone younger and hotter. Nigella would become a lesbian if she was not careful.
Throughout human history no one batted and eyelid at a man doing a 17 year old girl. Why could they not be as equable about it now as they were in more civilised epochs? As for a teacher doing his pupil – Georges Clemenceau married his schoolgirl Mary Plummer. Many people married below aged 17. People would still hold him in high regard. The ridiculous posture of disapproving of teacher carrying on romantic liaisons with their pupils would soon be over. It was such humbug. What had that judge said? There is nothing so ridiculous as the British public in one of its fits of self righteousness. A sane and pragmatic view of these things would soon prevail. These hardened campaigners for stringing up men who did it with their almost adult pupils were often people who were the shock troops of the PC movement. These radical feminists and leftists wanted compulsory homosexuality and as many abortions as possible. Who was really immoral? These child protection busybodies were not in a strong position to moralise. They were po faced prudes and killjoys. If they really wanted to save children they would prevent them being killed before birth.
Gradually a realisation dawned on him. Being found out – being caught – it had happened. He was going to be arrested. He was going to be prosecuted. He was going to gaol. It finally hit him a shattering blow. What had he done? He had had such a marvelous start in life. A stellar career academically. A fantastic turn on the stage and he was a handy sportsman. He had wanted to shine and shine he had done. He had done well at Oxford and on his PGCE. He had had a natural gift for communication with teenagers. A bit too much of a gift for getting through to them as it turned out! Now he had gone and thrown it all away. Within such a short space of time he had gone from star teacher to pariah. He would never work again. It was a debacle. But would he be acquitted? He could deny it but people would still be incredulous. Even if he was he would be permanently marked down in the estimation of many. Even his closest friends would doubt him. There would be a question mark over him forever. Even if all that happened he had rendered himself almost unemployable not just in teaching but in any sector. But he was not going to get away with this. The evidence was piled high against him. No one beats those odds. It was the lowest moment of his life. He knew that he was an utter outcast. What had become of his pristine reputation? He would be branded with the most opprobrious label of all. The gossip would be all over the place by now.
His wife would divorce him. She had been fantastic at first and decent at the end. Shouldn’t he have valued her more? How could he have broken his matrimonial vows so glibly? HE should have stuck to Nigella. And his precious children – he would not see them much again. Which woman would have him know? He would never find a companion. What he had done really was beyond the pale. Even his dearest friends would shun him. How could he have been so devil may care? He had been so egocentric. He had ruined his own life and Nigella’s. He only hoped he had not ruined his children’s lives too. He had scoffed at men who were faithful.
Abel felt torn up. That little tart he had fucked – she had sold him out. How could he have been such a moron as to trust her? Did she know what mental cruelty she was causing him? He was paralyzed with fear. His mind ran to stories in newspapers. It would distress and shame his parents. His pals would not want to know him. The lurid headlines would make it seem far worse than it really was. They would not say she was 17. They would claim she was 12. They would not say it was consensual. They would say it was rape. They would put him in the same category as dirty old men who prowled the parks to abduct, torture and murder toddlers. He would be branded a paedo. In prison he would be killed. What about his children? Imagine them going around with that stigma that their father was a child molester? He would be bracketed with Ian Brady. He was trembling. He strove to get his mind off the topic but he could not stop thinking about. Even if he got out who would ever employ him in any capacity. An unremitting gloom descended and enveloped him. What had he done?
Abel got to his friend’s house. Bradley was sympathetic and non judgmental. Bradely was a spindly type with natty clothes. Abel was hit by the compulsion to talk non stop. Bradley finally had to go to bed. Abel lay in bed but could not sleep. The strain of it was beginning to tell on him. What would become of him? He would not be convicted. No he would not. Would he be? No, that could not happen. But then he had told himself he would never be found out and that had occurred. He felt so demoralised. Could he escape? No, he knew his passport would have been cancelled. The police would be monitoring his communications already.
The next day he was zombified. Abel started chain smoking – his hands atremble. He began to resemble a tramp and he stopped eating. He drank can after can of tenant’s super – the most potent beer around. It was also cheap but tasted foul. He was jaded and seldom sober. As the effect of the alcohol wore off a little it had to be regularly refreshed by popping into another off licence. He walked around the city and sat on park benches. He looked at the grizzled winoes in their stinking rags and wondered if he would become one of them. He watched their drunken brawls. Abel snatched snoozes in the park but never for long. This explained his scruffy appearance. He was emotionally overwrought. He was filled with self -accusation. How could he have been so utterly stupid? It was blatant that he would be caught. His mate had warned him – several times. Nigella had warned him. She pleaded with him. He knew it was dangerous. He did it precisely because it was dangerous. That was the allure. Not just the sex – the illicitness. There is no excitement in safety. He was continuously exhausted. WHat a fool he had been. He was exogenously depressed. He was stressed out. Abel knew that he was no insane. He was feeling extremely worried and worn out not because he was mentally ill but precisely because he was sane. Kennington was in a woeful predicament and knew it. He would be crazy if he were not extremely worried about the grave situation he had gotten himself into. Abel began to think how he would feel when his parents found out what he had done. He could not face it.
Abel was at the end of his tether. Could he face going on? His hopelessness was building. There was no way out. He had started out so well. When he graduated only a few years before his future looked golden. Now he had thrown it all away. All for a cheap fuck. He could have satisfied that fantasy with Nigella – get her to dress up as a school girl. Why ohh why did he not stick to her? She was pretty and had a fantastic body. Gestation did not turn him off. If he had had any sense he would still be there in his prestigious job. Only a few days ago he actually had a future. Now he could see not future for himself. He had a past that could never be lived down. Abel had been so hardworking and diligent. Passionate about his faith and his profession. Headmastership could have been his. At the very least he could have staked his claim to a house or the headship of a department in only a couple of years. He felt so abject.
Abel was constantly lethargic and drowsy. His mind was befogged. As he could not sleep he could not be properly awake either. A pall of worry and grief hung over him. It was so ominous. He could not dispel the worry – try as he might. It was there – constantly there. He strove to think of something else. It was not going to happen. It could not happen! But it had happened. He fretted uncontrollably. His movements were erratic but his thoughts seldom changed. Abel was furnished with a mind that could range over Theology, History, Literature and many other things. But not it was focussed on one subject only. His strees was unremitting. Why would his anxiety never be dormant. Go away – he willed it. But it would not. It always came back within a minute. He was quaking almost non stop. He willed himself to think of other things. But then he would see something with some association with Helena or school and it would be back to his greatest worries again.
The ignominy was destructive. Abel grew ever more morbid. His psychology was more unbalanced than ever. He had fucked up his own life totally. Abel was consternated. Nothing could wipe away the stain now. There was no coming back. More and more people he had never touched might accuse him. The courts always believed them. He had destroyed his life – that was plain. There was still a chance for his children. Wouldn’t it be better for them if he just disappeared? Time now to expire. He had so disgraced the name of Kennington. If he just walked to Clifton Suspension Bridge and took a plunge? What was there to live for? Prison? Coming out to a minimum wage job? He would be on a sex offenders’ register. he would be harassed all his life and accused of things he never did. Better to end it all and spare his children the agony. He was not an unlikely candidate for suicide having tried it before – one for instant emotive judgments. One drizzly night he made his excuses and walked to Clifton Suspension Bridge. Abel was clumsy and disheveled. An inexpensive cigarette dangled from his lips. He began to ponder burial plots – where should he be interred? Did it matter? His family were best off forgetting him. There would be no commemorating someone who had so besmirched them. He walked briskly as the rain splattered over his scruffy clothes. His upper torso was drenched and he began to sneeze. What did illness matter if he had five minutes left to live? More pain was just another reason to end it all. His life had been a tragedy and an outright calamity. Might as well get it over with. On the way he saw a church. Should he go in and make a last confession? Just to make a clean breast of it. Meet his Maker in a state of grace.
Sean was teaching his bad lower sixth. They were back after exams. He was preparing those who would do A2 for next year. Might as well learn about German unification. The Battle of Waterloo was not a bad place to start. It was a German victory after all.
These boys were mostly thick as pig shit. The Belgians were all right. Some of the boys were dim but decent. Sean found it dispiriting to teach a class who should be in the Special Olympics. Only not many of them were fleet footed.
He showed them the documentary by Richard Holmes. Sean mentioned that Holmes was high in the Territorial Army. Stoke pricked up his ears. He was scintillated by militaria.
Towards the end Sean resumed his didactic session. One of the boys ventured ”Sir why has Mr Kennington left?”
”I do not know”
”Sir, he was shagging Helena wasn’t he”
”No he wasn’t” said Sean.
”Sir, its true sir. She told all her friends.”
”This is not for discussion”. Sean realised his form of words was a mistake and seemed to be a tacit admission.
”Sir, how come you go around to the deputy housemaster’s flat St James’ whenever Mr Kennington is out?” asked the pupil.
”I am a friend of the family and that is that. Back to history.” he said authoritatively but without conviction.
”Sir, are you having an affair with Mrs Kennington.”
”I most certainly am not and I shall not hear any more impertinent questions”. He struggled to maintain his composure. He could deny it in good conscience. It was casuistry. After all he was not having a liaison with her at that very moment. Now Abel was over and the marriage was dead perhaps Nigella would stop using him as a foil against Abel.
Burley Wookey said ”Mr Kennington used to go up to her in the corridor and mouth ‘I love you’ in front of everyone.” They all chuckled helplessly. By the expression on the boy’s face Sean deduced that he spoke the truth.
Sean was flustered and managed to continue the lesson. The boys were laughing and chattering.
That Saturday Sean pulled a sickie – just to avoid lessons. At 8;30 he presumed everyone who was going to work was gone. Those in the village who had the day off would not yet have gone out. Then he snuck out and went up to the hills for a long walk.
Fr AUgsutine was taking the house to dinner. Sean was to come to. A few boys had been barred for misconduct and would stay in the house. Augustine then told Sean he would have to stay to look after the house.
Sean got pissed off about this. He phoned Augustine to give him a piece of his mind.
”You said to come to dinner. Now you tell me I have to stay in the house to look after the worst behaved ones. Forget it. I am not fucking doing it. I don;t give a shit if the places burns down.” He slammed the phone down.
On the internal computer system he warned against Erwin Montague ”going for a truly scholastic subject like English. Might be better off with Business Studies.” The BS people did not like him saying that BS was BS.
At the end Murphy said that they would meet at the pub for a farewell to Sean.
”No .. . you… won’t” he said with slow bitterness.
”Are you sure?” said Murphy. He was that stupid. Sean laughed then shouted ”I am not going to socialise with you.”
Fr Augustine’s jaw dropped. They all knew of the enmity between the two men but they had not know the depth of it until then.
CHAT WITH MURPHY
On Monday Sean had a free lesson. Murphy came through to see him. ”Could you come to my office.”
Sean walked into the office. He took out his phone to switch it off.
”Will you please put your phone in your room?”
”All right then” he said in a teasingly nonchalant tone.
He walked out of the office and into his classroom. To his astonishment Murphy followed him and watched him.
They went back into Murphy;s office. The head of department knitted his brow. ”Have you been recording our conversations on your phone?”
Sean could not help but chortle at the ridiculousness of it.
”What makes you say that?” Sean asked – he wanted to piss Murphy off by making him suspicious and not denying it.
”Well have you?”
”Why would I? What are you MI6? Why are you so paranoid? Delusions of grandeur? What makes you think it is so important. I am not as pathetic as you. I would not go to the bother of recording our conversations. Believe me I do not want to have them first time around let alone listen to them afterwards.”
”Well back to third form. You showed them another video.”
”Yes, I know. You said I could show them occasionally.”
”No more videos.”
”May I observe your next lesson with them?”
”because I do not want you to and that is it. I have been observed 100 times and that is too much.”
”But I am your head of department.”
”So what. I have been sacked thanks to you.”
”You have not been sacked.”
”I have had an utterly miserable year thanks to you. But being you is its own punishment”
”Sorry you are leaving.”
”It is all thanks to you”
”I got all these complaints – what would you have done?”
”Supported the person and not made most of the complaints myself. You had grave doubts from the outset. You threatened me in the very first meeting. You collected evidence painstakingly from the start. Then you set me pointless tasks. Reinventing the wheel. Writing notes. WHy not use the textbook? Why buy them if we are not allowed to use them like any other school? They are far better than you can write. At least they are illustrated. They sell millions of copies for a reason. if you are so fixated with keeping the photocopying budget down then use textbooks. There were all these anonymous complaints – ‘we have had complaints’/?From whom/? You would not say. Was it the royal we?”
Murphy was chastened and changed tack.
”Have you got a job?”
”That is none of your business”
”Rumour has it that you have one.”
”Oh does rumour have it?”
”I would be delighted if you got a job”
” Oh isn’t that sweet” said Sean smiling sardonically. Murphy was nonplussed.
”Well you know your predecessor he has a job going and said you would be welcome to apply for that.”
”Well he is a total cunt. He invited me to apply and then did not even give me an interview.”
”Ok so I am going to observe you next.”
”What is the point? Two weeks of term left. If you walk in there I walk out – teaching them your fucking self.”
Sean upped and left. He was glad to have hit back at his archenemy.
Back in his classroom he got an email from Brown saying to come and see him asap.
Sean walked down the corridors. He passed Loveday in his grey science teacher shoes. The odour from Loveday was suffocating. Sean noticed how his grey socks had been darned and darned. The mans trousers were very tight which possibly explained why his voice was so high.
Brown looked cheerful
”Hi good to see you” he said with a firm handshake and a back slap.. Sean sat down in Brown’s office.
”Hello there” said Sean. He was surprised and disarmed. A summons to Brown was never a good sign. WHy was Brown so upbeat?
”I will come straight to the point. Abel was having sex with Helena as you know..”
”Do I? What about presumption of innocence?” he feigned ignorance.
”Don’t fuck me about mate” said Brown – suddenly surly. ”We both know for a fact that Abel was shagging her. He admitted it to me. He said you knew about it. So you covered up for him and you will be up shit creek without a paddle unless of course you bear witness against him.”
”First of all I do not know that Abel was doing that” Sean was an accomplished liar and managed not to blink. ”If Abel has confessed why do you need corroborative testimony?”
Brown was floored. He paused and then said meekly – ”Well it is always helpful just in case Abel retracts his confession”
Abel was not going to dob in his mate. Shagging Nigella was one thing but sending his pal to prison was another. No one could be sure that Sean knew unless Sean said that he had been aware what Abel was doing. He never witnessed Abel bonking the girl. What Abel said could have been a fantasy.
”I have heard a rumour since Abel disappeared as to why. But no whether he had a sexual encounter with a schoolgirl – I have no idea. ” Sean resisted the temptation to rub his nose or touch his lips. He knew fine well why Abel had scarpered.
Brown then gave a sinister smile. ”I have another trick up my sleeve. What is all this I hear about you going around to St James to bonk Nigella?”
”Well that is the first I have heard of it”
”I was not born yesterday. The boys all say you go around when her husband was out and they heard you banging her”
”Boys make up scurrilous rumours.”
”Are you disputing it?”
”On that I make no comment. I could be fucking 100 women – it is no business of yours. Why jealous are you? Your wife is not much to look at.”
”This is a Catholic school mate. Personal morality is very much on the agenda. ”
”So you swearing is ok then?”
”That is a different matter”
”You should be setting an example ” he added ”deputy headmaster” with heavy sarcasm.
”You know bonking a colleagues’ wife is a sacking offence”
”First of all it is not – someone I know at Uppingham did that. The cuckold wanted the man sacked. The headmaster totally sympathised but was legally powerless. Secondly I am leaving in two weeks anyway – bozo”
”You can still be sacked. Go on your reference. Just you try getting a job then. We can deny you your summer pay”
Sean was pumped up. He stood up and shouted ”do your worst” and walked out.
The good news was Abel had a fighting chance. If the school was desperate for more witnesses then it had a feeble case. Abel was denying all. That was standard operating procedure in a sex scandal.
Sean was summoned in to Murphy
”Right as for a leaving gift you said just gimme the money. You don”t think that was a bit rude?”
”Of course it was that was the whole point moron” said Sean.
Murphy handed over a niggardly six pounds. That was from 7 colleagues
”Right I have spoken to the head and Fr Augustine. We are all agreed. You teach no more lessons. You are relieved of all duties right now.”
Sean as nonplussed but then said ”fine by me”
”So you can come in tomorrow and hand over your keys.”
”No I will not. I will hand them in on Wednesday.”
”Why not tomorrow?”
”I have something to do.”
”I refuse to say”
”Does this have anything to do with another member of the department” he clearly feared a revenge attack.
”I refuse to say”
”Well I shall check with Loveday whether it is ok to hand the keys in on Wednesday”
”I do not care what he says I am not giving them back till Wednesday”
Sean promptly left
He packed his stuff on Tuesday. He walked to school in casuals for lunch and to read the papers. That evening in vespers he walked into the monastery where he was not allowed. He knew all the monks would be out. He went to his classroom and wrote an email
”Yesterday after luncheon I was informed by Murphy that I was relieved of all my duties with immediate effect. Leaving the Unhappy Valley will be a bittersweet moment. I have many loyal and amiable colleagues. A handful of you are the most detestable shits. You know who you are. As for those of you who called me arrogant – you all know which school I went to. You would have been disappointed if I had not confirmed your prejudices. ” He sent it to all staff.
He had some pals around for beers. There hideous librarian was there with her glabrous paramour.
Next day he got a taxi to York. There he caught a coach to Leeds and another coach to London.
Unfortunately Abel was sent down. He was sentenced to three years in prison. Nigella commenced divorce proceedings. In prison Abel converted to Islam. He was released after one year. He immediately flew to Saudi Arabia where he had been awarded a full scholarship at King Saud University. He married four teenaged wives and sired a score of children. He then obtained a PhD in Islamic Theology. He now lectures there in Moral Philosophy.
Sean found work as a journalist for a daily called London Lite.
Nigella found a quick witted and darkly divorced handsome stockbroker 10 years older than herself. He already had two daughter. They moved in together and never felt the need to wed.
The acidulous Murphy committed suicide on reading Sean’s email.